watercolourist, diarist, cartographer and naval officer, may be identified with one William Bradley, son of John and Elizabeth Bradley, who was baptised at Portsmouth, England, on 14 November 1758. He entered the Royal Navy on 10 April 1772, where his training probably included topographical draughtsmanship as well as cartography. Appointed first lieutenant in the Sirius on 25 October 1786, he sailed with the First Fleet the following May. All his authenticated drawings belong to the period 1787 to 1792. After reaching Port Jackson in January 1788, Bradley and John Hunter , also of the Sirius , began a series of surveys. They completed that of Sydney Harbour on 6 February; Bradley’s Head (which appears in his journal as 'Bradley Point’ and in his chart as 'Pt. Bradley’) was named after him. On 2 October 1788 he left Sydney with Hunter in the Sirius , bound for the Cape of Good Hope to obtain provisions for the colony; they returned on 9 May 1789. For the rest of the year Bradley was occupied in taking observations, supervising the repair of the Sirius and pursuing his interest in the Aborigines. On 19 February 1791, Bradley and the other officers and crew of the Sirius , under Hunter, left Norfolk Island in the Supply for Port Jackson from where they returned to England, reaching Portsmouth on 23 April 1792 in the chartered Dutch ship Waakzaamheyd . His career after leaving Australia encompassed the battle of the Glorious First of June 1794; a promotion to captain then rear-admiral in 1810; a trial for forgery in 1814, disgrace and exile. He died at Le Havre on 13 March 1833, having received a free pardon in 1822.

Bradley’s contemporary reputation was owed to his surveys and charts. His place in Australian history is ensured by the very full and precise journal, 'A Voyage to New South Wales’ – kept between 1786 and 1792 – which also provides the context for his charts and watercolours. Of the 31 works included in the journal (ML) 15 refer to Australia, such as Entrance of Port Jackson 27 January 1788 , Taking of Colbee & Benalon [sic] and Part of the Reef in Sydney Bay, Norfolk Island, on which the Sirius was wreck’d, 19th March, 1790 . A special artistic distinction is that he executed the first known view of Sydney, the watercolour Sydney Cove, Port Jackson. 1788 . (He also drew the first chart of Sydney Cove, on 1 March 1788.) His attempts to convey the character of the scenery, in particular his painstaking portrayals of the vegetation, must be rated unsuccessful, although his Norfolk Island pines are more convincing than his eucalypts. While his journal shows a considerable concern with the Aborigines and native wildlife, the drawings show the former merely as distant figures and the animals and birds not at all. Ships and their flags, boats, buildings and other scenic landmarks, on the other hand, are rendered with minute particularity and naturally give a great historical and topographical significance to his work. Bradley cannot be credited with any original vision, however; his scenes are little more than elaborated coastal profiles, well within the conventions of his training as an observant naval officer.

Three of his watercolours were exhibited in Warwick Hirst’s (assistant curator of mss), Painting the Pacific in the Picture Gallery (SLNSW exhibition guide, 2002): two of Norfolk Island (1790) and ' A View in the upper part of Port Jackson, where the Fish was Shot 1788 (PX*D 311b). The latter refers to a curious incident recorded in Bradley’s journal on 17 August 1788: 'As we were coming down the Harbour the Master short a fish of 1½ lb wight in a branch of a high tree which we got & eat, this fish was in the claws of a large Hawke when fired at, drop’d the fish & flew away’.

Hine, Janet D.
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